Ilhan Omar apologizes for anti-Semitic tweets, says she’s ‘standing strong’
Rep. Ilhan Omar on Monday tweeted out an apology for posts a day earlier that were condemned as anti-Semitic — and will apparently face no further punishment from party leaders.
“Listening and learning, but standing strong,” she wrote on a post that included her apology.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful to Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the powerful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” wrote Omar, a Somali-born Muslim.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expected people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
But she also said she believed in the point she was trying to make when she criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for unduly influencing US politics.
“I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”
Omar’s apology came after she had a conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and after the speaker and other top House Democrats condemned anti-Semitism and called on her to apologize.
“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception,” read a statement signed by the speaker and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries and caucus vice chair Katherine Clark.
“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments,” the statement read.
“As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered.”
Pelosi also tweeted that she had spoken to Omar, and appeared to suggest that the freshman lawmaker would not be disciplined, and that it was time to “move forward.”
“In our conversation today, Congresswoman Omar and I agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms,” she wrote.
On Sunday night, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” suggesting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was financially motivated to defend Israel, as McCarthy has said he would take action against Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for being critical of the Jewish state.
McCarthy had said that statements by Omar and Tlaib crossed the line into anti-Semitism and were worse than the racist rhetoric coming from GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who’s been stripped of his committee assignments.
But McCarthy recently faced accusations of anti-Semitism himself.
Before the midterms, he tweeted that voters should prevent billionaires Mike Bloomberg, George Soros and Tom Steyer — who are all Jewish — from buying the election.
“We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,” he wrote in a tweet condemned as anti-Semitic, and which he later deleted.
In another Sunday night tweet, Omar answered a journalist who had questioned on Twitter who the Michigan Democrat “thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.”
“AIPAC!” Omar replied, name-dropping the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The group spent about $3.5 million on lobbying in 2018, a small fraction of what many other lobbyists spent.
These tweets were met with an immediate backlash from some of her peers on both sides of the aisle.
Staten Island Rep. Max Rose tweeted Sunday night, “Congresswoman’s Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.”
“So sick & twisted,” wrote Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin. “This continued anti-Semitic trope from Omar is grossly wrong. There should be NO home in US politics, college campuses, or halls of Congress for ANY of this garbage. Now she tweets that if Members of Congress support Israel then they were bought off by Jews.”
On Monday, the letter went out to Democratic leadership, while the statements of contempt kept coming.
“It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s (MN) choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,” said Manhattan Rep. Jerry Nadler in a statement.
“While of course our nation’s leaders are free to debate the relative influence of a particular organization on our country’s policy-making process, or the factors that make our system of governance imperfect, there is an expectation of leaders — particularly those with a demonstrated commitment to the cause of justice and equality — that they would be extremely careful not to tread into the waters of anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or hate,” Nadler continued. “Rep. Omar failed that test of leadership with these comments.”
But not every lawmaker smacked Omar for her tweets.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning that he didn’t view Omar’s comments as anti-Semitic.
“We ought to be careful not to construe in that anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision-making,” Kildee said.
And while former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, who married a Jewish man, first said that “we should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism,” she expressed that she would call Omar’s office to set up a dialogue between the two.
On Twitter, Omar agreed to meet.
“Chelsea — I would be happy to talk. We must call out smears from the GOP and their allies. And I believe we can do that without criticizing people for their faith,” Omar wrote. “I look forward to building an inclusive movement for justice with you.”
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